On the border between New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine, the Republic of Madawaska nestles in the comfort of the Appalachians that skirt the picturesque Saint-John River Valley. Here, at all times, a warm welcome awaits.
A Republic? Yes! Legendary? True. But a Republic none the less, at a crossroads between history, inhabitancy and geography.
Long ago, at the very beginning, the Maliseets alone lived on both sides of the Saint John River Valley which they called Madawaska, « land of the porcupines ».
A new colony emerged in 1785. For years, the territory had been visited by traders passing through. Pierre Lizotte and Pierre Dupéré, two half-brothers from Kamouraska, Quebec, had even set up a temporary trading-post in Madawaska. Then the Acadiens sought refuge here. After the Deportation of 1755 in Grand Pre, Nova Scotia, they had once again been forced to surrender their new lands in Saint Anne des Pays Bas (Fredericton) to the loyalists fleeing the American War of Independence. They established their new-found homes along the banks of the Saint-John River.
A short while later, at the close of the eighteen century, French-Canadian colonists from Quebec came to Madawaska and also settled to farm the lowlands. Families joined together into one hard-working community living contentedly on either side of the river.
As yet, the people felt no need for boundaries. But the governments of New Brunswick, Quebec and Maine felt otherwise. Each began to lay claims to the area resulting in a « border-war » which lasted many years. One historical footnote of important to be mentioned here: the lone campaign of John Baker, an American colonist, who demanded that Madawaska become part of the American Republic.
In spite of his brave conduct, Baker never won his cause. In 1842, after prolonged negotiations, the governments involved reached agreement: under the treaty of Webster-Ashburton, the south bank of the Saint-John River would mark the American frontier. And so, with just one stroke of pen, thousands of Acadians and French-Canadians became American citizens. In 1851, an Imperial Act of Parliament officially defined the boundary between Quebec and New Brunswick.
Out of these historic events comes the homeland such as it is known today: a place, bordered by three frontiers – real or imaginary -, closed in by the state of Maine, the province of Quebec and English-speaking New Brunswick.
So much for history. Now for a nod to the cultural reality.
During those years of territorial disputed, legend has it that a Madawaska settler, in exasperation one day, retorted to a French inspector: « I am a citizen of the Republic of Madawaska! » And so was coined the term Republic of Madawaska.
In the twenties and thirties, during a session of the Legislative Assembly in Fredericton, a Member of Parliament for Madawaska used the same term in reference to his constituents.
In 1949, two upstanding Edmundstonians implemented Republic of Madawaska as a concept to make universally known the distinctive character of the region. Edmundston became the capital of the Republic. They further enhanced their project with a coat of arms, a flag and the « Order of the Knights of the Republic » of which the mayor of Edmundston is the president.
Ever since, it is with a smile and a handshake that the inhabitants of Madawaska, familiarly identified as Brayons, personify the uniqueness of their heritage in la République du Madawaska.
Here’s a link on which you can find interesting information on the region: